If you can't make it to the party, have your own and bring the party to you.That's the theory behind next week's Four Corners Dance Experience, which organizers say is a rare chance for regional dancers of all levels to learn from some of America's best instructors right in our own backyard.
"It's an incredible opportunity for the dancers, and it's a privilege to have professionals of this caliber coming here; we usually spend a lot of money to send our students where they can get this kind of experience," said Toni McClanahan.
McClanahan, the owner of Dance in the Rockies, said that although the Dance Experience was her concept, it is open to all of Durango's dance community, and she hopes it will attract students from Grand Junction, Colorado Springs and neighboring states, as well. The seven-member visiting faculty separately has achieved national and worldwide success teaching and performing and can drop names with the best of them:
- Al Bee, who will teach jazz classes for the Dance Experience: His break came on Star Search, and he has since performed at the Oscars and on the "Tonight Show."
- Barry Youngblood (hip-hop): He's danced behind Christina Aguilera, Jennifer Lopez and Pink, and choreographed for Nelly and others.
- Valerie Madonia (ballet): Classically trained at the American Academy of Ballet, her most famous on-stage cohort was none other than Mikhail Baryshnikov.
- Jeff Hill (jazz): His diverse résumé includes the George Lucas Super Live Adventure Tour, David Cassidy and gold medal-winning figure skater Dorothy Hammill.
- Katelyn Burgess (ballet): A Dance in the Rockies graduate herself, Burgess returns to Durango during a break from being a principal dancer with Boulder Ballet.
- Nick Gonzalez (tap, hip-hop): He's been on "So You Think You Can Dance" (he can, as evidenced by his appearance in Usher videos and his work with Red Man and Savion Glover).
- Chris Dupre (lyrical): His career has run the gamut of stage, screen, Broadway and TV, having been employed by the likes of Rob Reiner, Jane's Addiction, Diana Ross and Paula Abdul.
McClanahan said she has taken students to training seminars taught by Hill, Bee and Youngblood in Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Denver and other cities.
She said the cost for each student can near $1,000 when transportation, food and lodging is factored in, and that doesn't even address the logistics of traveling with large groups.
By contrast, a student could take all 23 possible classes in his or her ability level at the Four Corners Dance Experience for $350 but also may opt for a lighter course load at a lower price.
Bringing and hosting a slew of professionals also is costly, and McClanahan is philosophical about the possibility of operating in the red for the inaugural event, which she intends to become an annual highlight on Durango's arts calendar.
"Right now it's a little scary. It's a big undertaking - but I think when people realize what we've got here, it's going to take off," she said. "But there's still plenty of room for this year."